A recent discussion among parents of student athletes came around to the practice of “everyone wins”, medals for all, no score keeping so there’s no pressure to compete. From what these parents said, the “we’re all winners” mentality seems a relatively widespread practice. So if your “fun” is being the best, the sole winner, you’re out of luck.
That’s about as different as you can get from how things were when I was growing up. I wore glasses and was painfully awkward, so I wasn’t picked for many teams in gym class and I never won an award. I wasn’t anything special, just like 99.9% of the kids I knew. Sure it hurt then, but children are amazingly resilient so they bounce back (as I surely did) and move on. Turns out those early rebuffs prepared me for the realities of life as an adult.
The truth, as we all know, is this “give no offense” mentality does not hold true in the cold, hard world. Sometimes it seems exactly the opposite in fact. The real world doesn’t play fair. You can do everything right and not make the grade, get the job, win the girl/boy. In the real world (a place these kids will have to live in someday) you need every edge, hard work that’s not readily acknowledged or rewarded is par for the course. Outshining others is exactly how you get that first job, earn the coveted promotion, attract the perfect date.
We do children a terrible disservice when we train them to expect fairness on a regular basis. When we act like everybody wins – they don’t. When we insulate children from small rejections or refuse to single out greatness in the early years we’re offering a protection that is harmful, false, a fruitless illusion. Everybody doesn’t walk away a winner in the adult world. No one will be concerned with soothing your ego. Real life is hard, and you won’t always win.
Not only that, but the practice of “we are all winners” cheats the real winners — the best and brightest among us who genuinely deserve to be singled out and rewarded. They get lumped in with everyone else — leaving no real incentive for most to keep giving that full effort. Why try so hard for no more than what every participant gets?
This is creating a generation unprepared for the realities of life. I’m all for giving kids what they need, for protecting them to a point, but the road modern parenting is headed down does children a terrible disservice. It has them expecting fairness when there is none. Not knowing how to cope with the real hurts of life, the true setbacks we all face, they won’t have a child’s resilience.
Routine setbacks will ruin them, hurt like hell, be so much harder to get over.
Today’s kids will not thank their parents for the lie this behavior is — in fact, I’m thinking they’ll find it pretty hard to forgive. But then every generation of children swears to be better parents to their own children. I know I did. though only time will tell if I’ve succeeded.